WASHINGTON - "I've been very clear that I don't take any options off the table with respect to Iran. I don't take options off the table when it comes to US security, period," US President Barack Obama said.
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, published Saturday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, Obama said "we want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules. I think, ultimately, that will be better for the Iranian people.
"I think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors. And we are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region," the president said.
However, Obama stressed that he was "not naïve about the difficulties of such a process."
"If it doesn't work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it's being victimized by a US government that doesn't respect Iran's sovereignty," he said.
Asked whether he expects Israel to refrain from taking unilateral military action against Iran, the American leader said, "I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, you can understand why. So their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute. They're right there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.
"I can make an argument to Israel as an ally that the approach we are taking is one that has to be given a chance and offers the prospect of security, not just for the United States but also for Israel, that is superior to some of the other alternatives," Obama said.